Outgoing NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has been widely criticized for seeming and acting out of touch with New Yorkers. And during his final weeks in Gracie Mansion, the intensely unpopular Democratic candidate may unwittingly handicap the already struggling NYC jail Riker's Island.
To wit, the AP reports that hundreds of city department of corrections' workers might soon be fired after missing a Tuesday deadline to either get vaccinated or see their waiver approved. The city's DoC reported 77% of its staff had gotten at least one vaccine dose as of 1700ET on Monday. That's the lowest rate of any city agency, meaning about 1,900 employees have yet to comply with the mandate or apply for the waiver.
The deadline for compliance was delayed a month for jail workers because of existing staffing shortages.
Jail workers who have applied for religious or medical exemptions can continue to work while their cases are reviewed, officials said. They plan to release data on Wednesday detailing how many workers sought for an exemption. But they already know that the number who have obstinately refused to do either is unsustainably high.
Those who don't comply are supposed to be placed on unpaid leave and asked to surrender any badges or city-issued firearms (or other equipment).
What is the mayor doing about this? Well, in anticipation of the looming mandate, Mayor de Blasio on Monday issued an emergency executive order designed to beef up jail staffing by authorizing a transition to 12 hour from 8 hour shifts. Faced with a revolt over vaccine mandates, the mayor is asking remaining workers to take on more hours in a poorly paid, highly dangerous job.
The workers and their union representatives are unsurprisingly pushing back: The president of the union for jail guards balked at de Blasio's decision to move to 12-hour shifts, calling it "reckless and misguided."
The union said it would sue to block the mandate, the same tactic an NYC police union tried in late October as the vaccine requirement for officers neared. The police union lost and the mandate went into effect as planned.
To be sure, Benny Boscio Jr., the president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, told the AP that staffing in the city’s jails is as bad or worse than it was in October, when the mayor announced jail workers would have extra time to meet the vaccine mandate.
Resignations and retirements are already piling up, Boscio warned. Asking more able-bodied workers to go on unpaid leave would be like "pouring gasoline on a fire", Boscio said.
"To move forward with placing what little staff we do have on leave tomorrow would be like pouring gasoline on a fire, which will have a catastrophic impact on the safety of our officers and the thousands of inmates in our custody," Boscio said Tuesday.
NYC's jails, which includes the notorious Rikers Island complex, have been plagued by surging violence, self-harm and deaths since the start of the pandemic. At least 14 deaths have been recorded in NYC's jails so far this year, the highest number since 2013.
But de Blasio doesn't seem to care; he's preoccupied with adopting a new plan that would ban horse-drawn carriages and replace them with electric cars. And on Monday he imposed a new vaccination mandate on child-care workers in the city. You almost couldn't make this up.